An Arizona Republic newspaper website poll asked Phoenix Coyotes fans if they wanted to see Wayne Gretzky back as coach.
83 per cent responded 'no."
As Coyotes' coach Gretzky has an overall record of 143-161-24, has never made the playoffs, has a history of hiring friends to work for him (see 2006 column below) and to top it off he's way overpaid at $8 million a year when the average NHL coach gets $1M.
As we've said before, just because he was a great hockey player doesn't automatically make him a great coach or executive. Sure, one could argue he makes more (but it shouldn't be THAT much more) than the average NHL coach because he is also managing partner of the Coyotes.
But that title also means he's in charge of all hockey operations so he should be taking much of the blame for the state of the team on the ice, which can't help but have affected their situation off the ice the last few years. Even though, yes, the NHL persists (for some good reasons; see 'Why the U.S. has more teams' link below) in trying to plant its footprint in non-traditional markets.
So, just maybe, Gretzky's Teflon coating has worn off, or is starting to. Given his record, it was inevitable. Why should he be immune?
It happens a lot in sports -- great players being just that and nothing more, though that certainly can be enough. But as Dirty Harry said, a man's gotta realize his limitations. Sadly, perhaps, in Gretzky's case hockey is all he has known, he's fond of saying the game has given him everything (it's been a two-way street, obviously) so it's perhaps natural for him to want to continue to contribute in a tangible way rather than as some sort of figurehead.
Oops, I've used that Dirty Harry line before in previous posts on the Gretzky topic. So why don't we just direct you there . . .
And here's that column from October of 2006 about the Coyotes' FOG system -- Friends of Gretzky. Hate to say I told you so, but . . .
Gretzky's Coyotes are in a FOG
By Karlo Berkovich, Record staff
Let's be honest.
Were Wayne Gretzky anyone else, people would be calling for him to step down as Phoenix Coyotes coach.
The team is 1-4, has gotten blown out 5-1, 9-2 and 4-1 in its last three games, attendance is uneven, to be charitable, in a non-traditional market that will never work . . . Need we go on?
Yes, we know, Gretzky runs the team.
He's the managing general partner and an NHL alternate governor. So he'll never actually get fired; who's got the guts to fire the Great One? Great One as a player, we remind you.
But who's got the jam to do the job that likely needs to be done? The team board? Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes?
Never happen. If Gretzky ever leaves as coach, he'll simply resign, citing the usual family reasons, he wants to concentrate of the Canadian Olympic program (which anyone could run with their eyes closed, given the talent base), whatever.
Meanwhile, nobody will say what seems to be increasingly obvious though yes, it is early. Still, things are not looking good.
The team missed the playoffs last year, bolstered itself for the fast-paced competition that NHL hockey has become with a retread me-first player in aging, injury-prone Owen Nolan and the now more quotable than actually dangerous-on-the-ice Jeremy Roenick, and continu es to struggle.
So whose fault is that? Of course, someone other than the Teflon Man will get blamed, particularly by Gretzky's media sycophants.
Meanwhile, look at the front office. The general manager is Mike Barnett, Gretzky's old agent. Grant Fuhr, the former Edmonton Oiler star, is the goalie coach. He has little to no previous experience and it's been proven that many great players, with some exceptions, do not work out as coaches.
Gretzky might be one of them.
The director of player development is Eddie Mio, the old Oiler goalie from as far back as Gretzky's WHA days, someone of relatively little accomplishment and Gretzky's longtime buddy and best man at No. 99's wedding.
One of the amateur scouts? Keith Gretzky, the Great One's brother. Wonder how he got that job?
Gretzky himself never paid his dues as a coach. He may be the best to ever play, or at least arguably so, but he would have been wiser to go the NHL assistant or minor pro head coach route first. It's understandable that he didn't. He is, after all, Wayne Gretzky, so the optics might have been awkward. But it also would have sent a strong message that he was entering a new realm and was not above starting from scratch.
Instead, he is part of the ownership group, eventually became the coach and the Coyotes organization is exactly what other critics have pointed out: It's the FOG organization. Friends Of Gretzky. Of course, while this is no way diminishes Gretzky's unparalleled exploits on the ice, few in the modern world of unquestioning celebrity worship want to hear that he might not be quite up to scratch in a position of leadership off the ice.
But there it is.